Sikka quits as Infosys CEO; cites ‘baseless personal attacks’

The Infosys board has taken a hard stand on what it termed as repeated insinuations and malicious campaign against the company by its founders and has withdrawn the invitation to co-founder N R Narayana Murthy a representation on its board. 

The board has also asked the remuneration committee to find a suitable candidate to replace Sikka who will remain the Vice-Chairman. 

The committee has been given time till March 31 next year to fill up the CEO’s post. Sikka resigned from his post of CEO & MD on Friday claiming that he could no longer continue in his post because of continuous campaign against him which had turned personal. 

Last week, Ravi Venkatesan, the co-Chairman of the board, had said that Infosys was willing to give Murthy a representation on its board. Murthy, did not respond to Venkatesan’s offer. 

In a hurriedly convened investors’ call on Friday, Venkatesan said he was thankful to Sikka for making Infosys “relevant again”.’ 

“Vishal did a great deal for making the journey exciting again during the three years he was there. He has planted the seed for the transformation of the company and it will bear fruit soon,” he said. 

He also made it clear that there was no going back as far as the new strategy initiated by Sikka is concerned. The board is incredibly committed to the strategy articulated by Vishal, he pointed out. 

“We hope to get a new CEO before March 31, 2018. Praveen Rao, will continue to report to Sikka.” 

Sikka, who received support from most of the analysts who participated in the investors’ call, said he has received complete support and was thankful for the commitment by his team. 

He said the industry is going through a significant shift and is driven by automation and all-pervasive digitization. “I am really proud of what we have achieved. We deliver things nobody could do to improve the productivity. I am proud of the results we have achieved,” he said. 

He said since he took over the top job, the attrition rates have come down while revenues too have increased. “There has been a steadfast focus on margins. Our utilization has been on a 10-year-high. The number of clients in the $100-million order has gone up from 12 to 19,” he said. 

Sikka came down heavily on allegations made against him. “You can deal with certain issues but what has been happening since January or February, the continuous drum beats of these allegations, news stories, Rajiv (Bansal, former CFO) separation, Panaya (deal) and (all this), over and over again…it is absolutely sickening. You wake up in the morning, and it is the same regurgitation of the same nonsense. I was spending way too much time, even that is surface damage. What it does is to make it difficult to carry out the change agenda. We have been trying to provide a working culture. …and this is a dis-service to the company, it prevents us from creating a value. It creates negativity. I have been thinking about this for some time. I have had two long meetings with Ravi and Seshasayee was here too. I have been thinking through this and earlier today …” 

Sikka said the situation had got worse and increasingly malicious and personal. This is not the end of the company. The company will live longer than all of us. The board told me that I should reconsider my decision and felt that the performance will slow down. 

Praveen Rao, the current COO who has now become the interim CEO and MD, admitted there are no easy solutions and said he was very happy that Sikka will be around for the foreseeable future.